Toronto as Stand-In for Ecuador? This Is How It Happens

Deadpool Still - H 2015
Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox

Deadpool Still - H 2015

White-water rafting in completely flat Manitoba? No problem say production designers who celebrate Canada's unused and unspoiled locations: "We were looking for somewhere man had not been."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

"We're shooting a white-water rapids sequence in pancake-flat Manitoba. Can you make it happen?" That's just one of thousands of requests Canadian crewmembers field each year when Hollywood productions head north for cheaper crews and lush locales. Here, four production/location pros reveal their tricks on high-profile shoots.

Location: Winnipeg

Used in: DreamWorks' canine drama A Dog's Purpose, starring Dennis Quaid and Britt Robertson. Currently in production.

Biggest incentives: 45 percent, labor-based Manitoba film and video production tax credit.

Set report: "The script originally called for a white-water rescue. It's flat here. There's not a lot of white water; it's all very lazy rivers," says executive producer Alan Blomquist. "But we found a spot with a dam that held back the water that, when released, it came out really fast. We could make it look very dangerous for a rescue scene. No, it wasn't white water in the woods, but we adapted the story for our location."

Location: Rimouski, in Bic National Park, Saint-Fabien

Used in: Paramount Vantage's Story of Your Life, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Due in 2016.

Biggest incentives: 20 percent all-spend Quebec production services tax credit; Quebec computer animation and special effects tax credit.

Set report: "We were looking for somewhere man had not been; a wild and open field in the wilderness," says location manager Michele St-Arnaud. "Then we found this hidden spot over this ridge — a valley. [Director] Denis Villeneuve fell in love with it. We just had to build minimal road access and a base camp, which is conveniently hidden behind a mountain."

Location: Scarborough Bluffs, Lake Ontario

Used in: Netflix's comedy feature Special Correspondents, starring writer-director Ricky Gervais and Eric Bana. Premieres in 2016.

Biggest incentives: 25 percent all-spend Ontario production services tax credit; Ontario computer animation and special effects tax credit.

Set report: "Toronto as a stand-in for New York — people do it all the time. The surprise for me was capturing Ecuador in Toronto," says production designer Brent Thomas. "When I started the movie, producers thought of going to Mexico or the Dominican Republic. But Ricky said, 'Nah, we'll spend too much time on a plane. We can shoot it in Toronto.' And guess what? We went to a location at Scarborough Bluffs, which delivered Ecuador in spades. Go to Lake Ontario and it looks like the ocean. There are some photos of Ecuador I found in my research that look exactly the same."

Gervais (center, in sunglasses) and his Special Correspondents cast.

Location: Amix Heavy Lift Yard, Surrey

Used in: Marvel/Fox's Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds. Opens Feb. 12.

Biggest incentives: 33 percent labor-based production services tax credit; B.C. digital animation or visual effects tax credit.

Set report: "We needed a junkyard, so we turned a giant yard where they scrap aircraft and surplus military equipment into a military salvage yard," says the film's production designer Sean Haworth. "We brought in tons of extra material — heaps of old containers, planes, parts of helicopters and chewed-up trains. At first glance, Vancouver is a very modern, model-like city, so it's easy to be worried you won't find the falling-apart look. But we also found amazingly gritty old factories and alleyways and bars and docks."